Portable meals and snacks: A healthy way to increase restaurant sales By Devon Peart November 11, 2014
People today are in a rush; there’s no doubt about it. Foodservice operators can help by offering meal options that save people some of their precious time. Slow food has its place, absolutely. But there’s also a place for meals and snacks that are portable – meaning you can take them with you. More and more operators are responding to consumer demand for portable options. In a recent study, it was reported that when operators offer to-go items, those items constitute 22 per cent of foodservice revenues.
Meals and snacks that offer convenience for people to consume on the go:
Foods that don’t require cutlery to eat
Hearty beverages that can stand in for a meal (think “green smoothies”, fruit smoothies)
Handheld breakfast options (a meal that is often skipped) like the “breakfast sandwich” or breakfast burrito
Mini-versions of traditional favourites – “snackables”
Amp up the nutrition
“Fast foods” have been around for years and enjoy a great following—but there are many people, especially teens, young adults and seniors, who want fast and healthy. “Wraps” and “bowls” are great take-away options that you can build with customizable ingredients including whole grains, veggies and lean protein.
Beverages can be as substantial as a meal, yet consumable on the go. Offer smoothies with fruit, veggies and lower fat yogourt, chia or other seeds, whey or soy protein and your customers get a nutritious, tasty meal in a glass.
Put a nutritious twist on favourite stand-bys
Burgers have long been a popular mainstay of many menus. Improve the nutrient quality by offering gourmet varieties using quality ingredients with a trendy twist like salmon, soy or veggie burgers with nutritious greens and fresh, lower fat cheese. Give your fries a healthy makeover using baked sweet potato.
Dinner to go
In the last few years, consumers are not going out for dinner as often, yet HMR (prepared meals sold in retail stores) is a growth market. Think of how often people stop in the grocery store for a few things, and end up leaving with ready-made dinner in hand. Why not offer that same convenience to your lunch patrons – prepared meals they can take with them, and heat up later for dinner. That’s two sales instead of one!
Think about packaging
When you offer to-go options, make it easy for your customers by packaging them in ways that get the portable items from point A to point B with ease – restaurant to office, restaurant to home, restaurant to gym, hockey, etc.! There are lots of packaging options, including bowls, re-sealable bags, biodegradable containers and more. There are even packages that feature temperature indicators!
Put portable meals front and centre
Grab and go, snacks and meals for later are all perfect candidates for the impulse buy. So strategic placement is very important because your customers may not know they want them until they know! They come in for lunch, and see dinner take away options, or they stop in for a coffee and see portable snacks that would be great for the drive to wherever. Many operators have dedicated stations that call attention to the ‘grab and go’ items. But you can achieve similar results by having dedicated space on your menu (website, flyer, LED screen, etc.) that lets people know those options are available.
It’s all about identifying customer needs and finding creative ways to meet those needs, and portable meals are one answer to today’s busy lifestyle.
About the Author:
Devon Peart is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Community Nutrition, and the Collaborative Program in Women’s Studies, from the University of Toronto. She is a consulting dietitian, writer and Huffington Post blogger. Devon worked for six and a half years for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s former Health Check Program, first as Business Development Manager at the national level and then as ON Program Manager. Devon has also provided nutrition counseling in individual and group settings, facilitated workplace nutrition education, worked with child nutrition programs, and in health promotion in a hospital setting.